Top 10 Films of 2013
Happy New Year, friends!
I am certainly hoping that 2014 is a much better year at the movies than the generally dismal 2013. Though it seemed most films released last year were garbage, there was luckily a handful that didn’t suck, and out of those, even a few genuine works of art.
In accordance with the New Year’s ritual, I’ve compiled a list of films of 2013 that I felt were the best. Here’s what I came up with...
10. The World’s End
After sending up zombie and cop movie clichés, director Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) reunites with stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost for an innovative apocalyptic comedy. Pegg and Frost are joined by Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine and Eddie Marsan as reunited friends engaged in a pub crawl in their hometown. They begin to notice the townsfolk in the local pubs are acting strange, and they come to discover Earth is being invaded. The film inventively pays homage to films like Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Village of the Damned, and even explores the same individualist-versus-collectivist themes. Great special effects, big laughs.
The life of Jackie Robinson has been one of the most groundbreaking and inspiring in American history. Director Brian Helgeland (Payback) celebrates the icon with an old-fashioned, crowd-pleasing Hollywood biopic. The terrific Chadwick Boseman stars as the baseball hero and civil rights leader who broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier. Also terrific are Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey, the general manager who brought Robinson to the big leagues, and Lucas Black as Dodgers shortstop Pee Wee Reese. There used to be a time when it was fashionable for Hollywood to make wholesome and endearing films on a more consistent basis. They should go back to doing that.
8. Man of Steel
The origin of Superman saga is once again brought to the screen with non-stop action and extravagant special effects courtesy of director Zach Snyder (Watchmen) and producer Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight Rises). Clark Kent (the chiseled Henry Cavill) wanders the world trying to find out his meaning in life, knowing he is one of the last Kryptonians. When the evil General Zod (a deviant Michael Shannon) arrives, bent on turning Earth into a new Krypton and eradicating humanity, Clark dons his cape for the first time to save his new home from annihilation. Man of Steel makes no apologies for being an over-the-top superhero epic, and in doing so, was the best popcorn flick of the year.
7. Spring Breakers
The films of Harmony Korine (Gummo) are... er, interesting... to say the least. The oddball director tops himself with his most accessible outing with this crime flick concerning four college-age friends (Vanessa Hudgens, Selena Gomez, Ashley Benson and Rachel Korine) who rob their way to Spring Break in Florida. While partying hard, they meet the drug-dealing rapper Alien (the superb James Franco, also topping himself), who further draws the girls deeper into the criminal underworld. Exploitative? Perhaps, but that’s part of Korine’s modus operandi. What’s indisputable is the film’s strong ability to thrill and entertain.
6. The Hunt
Mads Mikkelsen (the current Hannibal Lecter) stars as Lucas, a kindergarten worker whose life takes a tragic twist when he’s wrongfully accused of engaging in a lewd act with a child. The loving father and upright citizen becomes a pariah in his small Danish community, finding himself rejected by lifelong friends and the target of violence. Directed by Thomas Vinterberg (The Celebration), this drama examines the consequences of unfound hysteria and how stigmas are hard to shake, even if one is innocent. Mikkelsen is a knockout as a man out to clear his name.
This Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Language Film is set during the 1988 Chilean plebiscite, in which the people decided if brutal dictator Augusto Pinochet would serve another eight years as president of Chile. Gael Garcia Bernal is the hot-shot adman Rene, whose agency must create TV spots for both the “Yes” campaign to keep Pinochet in power and the “No” campaign to oust the tyrant. While working on the “No” campaign, Rene and his team are subject to intimidation from Pinochet’s thugs and so must succeed in their efforts to help free Chile from authoritarian rule. Directed by Pablo Larrain, the film was shot on video to recreate the look of television in the 80s, and Bernal gives another great performance as a marketing wizard and peaceful revolutionary. Fight the power!
4. The Wolf of Wall Street
Some argue that maestro Martin Scorsese (GoodFellas) and his star Leonardo DiCaprio glorify greed with this film based on sleazy, true-life exploits of Jordan Belfort, whose decadent, drug-fueled Wall Street hustling hurt investors and caught the attention of the FBI. I’m not sure if it makes Belfort out to be a hero or not, but like watching Henry Hill’s life story, it makes for superior entertainment. The script by Boardwalk Empire creator Terence Winter is grotesquely funny, and a buck-toothed Jonah Hill is a hoot as Belfort’s partner in crime. Another Scorsese masterpiece.
There are a few things that every great socially-aware documentary does: it blows a very loud whistle and causes change for the better. This film, an exposé of SeaWorld and the dangers of keeping killer whales in captivity, does just that. It tells the story of killer whale Tilikum, who despite already killing three human beings and a lawsuit from OSHA, still performs at SeaWorld. Documentarian Gabriela Cowperthwaite makes a most compelling case against the captivity of these intelligent creatures, and the result is one of the most important docs released this century. It has also inspired a movement to boycott SeaWorld for their negligence, a movement that continues to grow with the popularity of this film.
Director Alfonso Cuarón (Y Tu Mamá También, Children of Men) is now officially one of the great maestros of science fiction. This 3D spectacle stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as astronauts doing maintenance on the Hubble Space Telescope, whose mission is interrupted by space debris; they must fight to save their lives in orbit around Earth. The groundbreaking special effects, roller-coaster pacing and masterful editing make for the most gripping suspense film of the year. A premium movie event.
1. 12 Years a Slave
The incredible and heartbreaking true story of Solomon Northup, played marvelously by Chiwetel Ejiofor, is vividly brought to the screen by director Steve McQueen (Shame). Born a free man in New York before the Civil War, Northup is kidnapped, sold into slavery and sent to Louisiana. After working under a benign master (Benedict Cumberbatch), he is sold to the harsh Edwin Epps (the amazing, maniacal Michael Fassbender), a savage plantation owner. While enduring the most dehumanizing treatment imaginable, Northup never gives up hope that he may be reunited with his family and does what he can to see that it happens. This powerful, haunting portrayal of American slavery is not the feel-good movie of the year, but it’s an important work of art and history.
Honorable Mention: American Hustle, Dallas Buyers Club, Frances Ha, The Kings of Summer, The Conjuring, Mud, Muscle Shoals, Room 237, To the Wonder, The Way Way Back
Worst Film of 2013: The Host
Fuck this movie. Seriously. Every bugger involved in its making should be ashamed of themselves. This piece of shit was so bad and such a waste of my time that I feel I need to quit writing about it because I’m giving it too much exposure. If you want to see a decent movie that does have Stephenie Meyer’s name on it as a producer and is actually worth watching, I’d recommend Austenland starring Keri Russell.